Watching the Sun Set

Watching the Sunset
Watching the Sun Set is a common ritual in Florida                         Purchase a fine art gallery print

People watching the sunset over the water is something I see all the time here in Florida; not just once in a while, but ALL THE TIME. 😉 And it’s a little more organized than you might think. Every evening there are groups of people who have gathered together with fold-up chairs at the beach to experience this event together. Sometimes, like on the evening I took this, it’s just a few people. However at another beach I’m thinking of there could be as many as twenty. This is serious business down here in the sunshine state.

I know of a mobile home park along the water that has permanent chairs set up facing west for just this purpose. I know that because I’ve seen them all line up, drinks in hand, watching the sun set. What a life.

Sometimes when I see these groups on the beach I think they are church groups or maybe a meditation circle, because before the sun sets they’re all in a circle discussing or singing or playing drums. Its kind of like something I’d expect to see in California, not here in Florida.

I’m developing a theory that if you live someplace where it’s warm and has a lot of sunsets you are more likely to be mellow. Okay, so I’m no Einstein, I suppose its just common sense, self-evident. 

On a related note, I’ve heard that we Floridians are called stone-slackers. I have an inkling about what the connotation is and I think there’s more than a seed of truth in that.

It’s no wonder so many people come here to retire. After living a hectic life, why not? 

Well, I’m probably not a stone slacker yet because I’m not retired, but when and if I do, I’m in the right place. I already have a fold-up chair, all I need now is a drum.

Fort De Soto Beach

Fort De Soto Beach
Fort De Soto Beach just outside of Tampa Bay                                      Purchase a framed gallery print

Visits to the beach

This is Fort De Soto Beach a couple of days ago. With the holiday over we decided to head to the beach and unwind. This is a section that looks across towards the Sunshine Skyway Bridge as it enters Tampa Bay. I don’t spend as much time at the beach as you might think. I go for photography quite a bit, but to sit and vegetate, rarely. I suppose that’s common among us who live here, we take it for granted. I go maybe two or three times a year. But as I say, for photography I go many more times than that. In the end it doesn’t matter because I do spend time along the shore with the waves, breeze and sunsets; I do not take that for granted, at least not yet.

How I created the Image

I worked on this image for several hours this evening. I used a motion blur and carefully blended the original layer. Prior to that I created about ten layers in Photoshop to carefully craft the image to an idea I had in my minds eye. Then finally I used a Lightroom preset to give it an overall desaturated tone.

What I was thinking at the time

You may understand some of these technical details but if not, no worries. The point is, on some images I spend a lot of time and effort to transform an image into something resembling a dreamscape. For no other reason than I like to and, I think that dreams can be just as important as ordinary life. I’ve heard that we make our own reality, so if that’s true, then sometimes I like to create a reality that is a little bit ethereal like a dream, one that I would like to inhabit if I could; at least in my mind.

Country Oak

Country Oak
A Country Oak along the rural section of Manatee County Florida                            Purchase a gallery print

This is a country oak I found along the highway in the outer reaches of my county. I see these whenever I drive along the pastures east of my home. Yesterday I just had to stop and take a picture. Normally these oaks are shelter from the hot Florida sun for the cattle and so it’s not uncommon to find several in the shade. For whatever reason there were no cattle here and so the simplicity of the scene grabbed my attention.

When is warm and humid, we get these rows of clouds stretching as far as the eye can see. In this case there was another layer above that creating a spectacle in the sky. For whatever atmospheric reason, the clouds form readily at mid day over the rural areas, but as you get closer to the coast and beaches, the clouds disappear; not always but most of the time. On the west end of the county is pristine beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, the eastern end is mostly farming and ranches. The beaches and the rural sections seem to each have their own distinct climates.

After I titled this image Country Oak it occurred to me that indeed this is a common name. There are streets like Country Oak Lane; developments like Country Oak Estates; and schools like Country Oak Middle School, …the list goes on. I never really thought about it before now, but the idea of Country Oaks seem to be iconic and somewhat popular around here. And here I thought it was all about the beaches.

Queenstown Gardens

Queenstown Gardens
Queenstown Gardens in autumn just after sunrise                             Obtain a gallery print

This was taken inside Queenstown Gardens which is situated right in the middle of Queenstown. It’s kind of like Central Park for Queenstown, yet even as I write that I know it’s not a good analogy. Surrounded by mountains, Queenstown has nothing in common with New York City. Maybe a better analogy would be Stanley Park in Vancouver, yes, I think so. Only Queenstown is not as commercial as Vancouver and is many times smaller. So if Vancouver were one-tenth its size then the comparison might be truer; so much for analogies.

I came here with a group of photographers on the first day of a workshop with Trey Ratcliff. We arrived before dawn along the shores of Lake Wakatipu. We then walked and took photos for several miles, ending up here still quite early in the morning. The shadows were long in the morning sun and the clouds were puffy; all elements to consider in composition, which was one of the themes of the workshop. As compositions go, this is so-so, not one of my best. Even so, looking at this now brings back fond memories of the chilly autumn morning.

After about an hour here we loaded onto a bus and headed for a well-deserved breakfast at a hotel overlooking the lake. After almost two years, I still believe that New Zealand has some of the most scenic landscapes on the planet. I also think they make a pretty good breakfast. So if you can put those two concepts together, that amount sums up my first morning.

Bormuth Tapas Bar

Bormuth Tapas Bar
Bormuth Tapas Bar in the El Born / La Ribera section of Barcelona                     Purchase a gallery print

Bormuth Tapas Bar is located in the El Born / La Ribera section of Barcelona. It’s in a labyrinth of streets and shops. Of all the places I visited in this city, this area was most enjoyable to get lost in. I snapped this shot as I was walking around at night, but later learned from TripAdvisor that it has great ratings. Had I not just left another Tapas bar a few minutes before I would have stopped here for a quick nosh. This area is so fun I could imagine living in Barcelona just to hang out here and talk late into the night, or wander around with my camera.

Tapas is the way to go, a little bit of this, a little bit of that and some good Spanish wine to wash it all down. I’ve noticed a few Tapas bars popping up near my home in Florida lately. If I were to make a prediction I would guess that Tapas will grow in popularity here in North America. It just seems like a reasonable way to eat, kind of like a Spanish version of Dim Sum.

To take this photo I used an ISO of 5000 which is quite high. That and the in-camera image stabilization allows me to capture a night scenes like this that would not have been possible a year ago without a tripod. Capturing images at night is one of my favorite types of photography, the mood is transformed from the stark light of day and somehow it evokes more feelings and imagination, at least for me.

So here I am, lost in a labyrinth, having just had Tapas and wine, and lost in the joy of my favorite type of photography at the same time. What could be better?

Afternoon at Fort DeSoto Beach

Afternoon at Fort Desoto Beach
Afternoon at Fort DeSoto Beach                                            Purchase a gallery print

Over the weekend I spent the afternoon at Fort DeSoto beach watching the waves and taking a few pictures. This is one of my favorite spots, its remote and in the afternoon there are few people. There is also a campground near by so you can walk or ride a bike here, watch the sunset and then head back to sit around the campfire. That’s what this family did as it started to get dark.

Just off the coast is Egmont Key which is a deserted island, a little like the island in Lost.

Around this time of the day you might see a cruise ship sail past this point on its way out of Tampa Bay towards the Gulf of Mexico. Winter it’s a busy time for cruises so we tend to see a lot of ships coming and going. Something about those gigantic ships is mesmerizing to watch, especially in the evenings when they are all lit up, like moving cities. If you get up early, you see them going in the opposite direction as they come into port.

Only after I moved to the Tampa area did I learn about cruises. A few years back I took my first cruise out of here and sailed right past this spot. I had so much fun I didn’t want it to end. Nevertheless, I got up early on the last morning to see all the familiar landmarks I’d only ever seen from shore.

Typical Day in Collioure

Typical Day in Collioure
Typical Day in Collioure, France                                           Purchase gallery print

Actually, I have no idea if this is a typical day or not, I’ve only been here once. But because it was a Tuesday and not the weekend, I have to assume it was typical. I guess I’ll have to wait until I come back to be sure. The beach is protected by a seawall and the shops are all open and outdoor bistros serve beer, wine, coffee and pastries. Personally I could get used to this as a typical day. We stopped along here and had a drink at one of the cafes as we watched the everything around us. If I did live here I’d probably live to be a ripe old age, playing checkers or bocci ball with the other escapees from modern civilization. Then I’d sit and have a glass of red wine while I watched the people go by. Then I’d get up in the morning and do it all again. Just another typical day in Collioure, France.

Mist on Wick Beach

Mist on Wick Beach
The mist on Wickaninnish Beach, aka  Wick Beach in BC Canada                                  Purchase a gallery print

Wickaninnish Beach, BC

This is a shot of the mist on Wick beach in British Columbia. Actually the name of this place is Wickaninnish, but folks around here just call it Wick. In any case, this is at the southern end of a very long beach that stretches for miles up the coast. There is a WWII memorial here as well as a lodge with a restaurant that has a few local dishes on the menu. It was a chilly day so we asked for comfort food and we got a local favorite. I can’t begin to remember the name of it but it seemed to have fish and rice all mixed in and it really hit the spot. This area is known for surfing, fishing whale watching. Or, if you’re like me, just long walks on a long beach followed by comfort food.

Bradenton Beach Elements

Bradenton Beach
The natural elements of Bradenton Beach                         Purchase gallery print

A few of days ago I arrived at Bradenton Beach just as the sun receded beyond a layer of clouds. I like photos that show people alongside the elements of nature. Something about the outdoors resonates with me and so I try to create images showing people immersed in nature. Living near the coast of Florida I have ample opportunity to explore this. Its safe to say that most of us love to hang out at the beach, not only because its fun, but because it satisfies a need to be outdoors with the elements. The sand, the ocean, the sky and clouds, these are all things we can easily feel affinity for. Maybe we don’t always think about it, we just long for the relaxation and fun, but I think that on another level relaxation and fun come from being exposed to things that are not artificial. This is just a long winded way of saying it’s nice to get outdoors, and what better way to do that then time on a beach. So anyway, here I am, standing on the beach and I noticed these two enjoying the last rays of the sun. I’ll hazard a guess that they had some fun and went home a little more relaxed then when they arrived, I rest my case your honor.

River Crossings

River Crossings
River Crossings across the Manatee River between Palmetto and Bradenton Florida              Purchase a gallery print

These are the Manatee River Crossings between the towns of Bradenton and Palmetto in Florida. The furthest bridge is for cars and the closer one for trains. I am standing on a taller third bridge looking down. The river is so wide here that I think before these bridges were built, the two towns must have been quite different, as they were only accessible to each other by boat. Now the towns are in the same county and we cross the bridges without a thought. As the towns grow a new bridge is under construction up stream from here.

To take this shot I walked to this spot atop the third bridge using the bike lane. I then stood here with my tripod taking in the scene as the sun rose and the thick clouds hung in the air. These along with the still morning surface of the river created an ethereal quality that I wanted to capture. After taking the photo I walked back down off the bridge against the flow of early morning commuters. At about the same time the upraised span of the rail bridge lowered for the first train as it crossed the river.

These are the moments when the day begins. Many things happen during the day as we live our lives in close proximity, passing each other going this way and that. Then, at the end of the day, the crossings empty of trains and cars, and below them the calm waters of the river return.